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BRIEF SUMMARY OF BHAGAVAD GITA

-N. Avinashilingam

Bhagavad Gita means the Lords song. The Gita is divided into three
sections; the first section (Chapters 1 to 6) explains about the Jiva; the
second section ( Chapters 7 to 12) explains about Isvara and the third
section (Chapters 13 to 18) explains about the oneness between Jiva and
Isvara. The Gita expounds the theme of the source book, the Upanishads.
Vedanta is the only pram ana (means of knowledge) to gain atm a
jnana . Gita says that knowing oneself is the same as gaining oneness with
Isvara.
CHAPTER I: THE TOPIC OF ARJUNAS SORROW: Duryodana usurped
the kingdom which rightfully belonged to the Pandavas. Lord Krishna went
as a messenger of the Pandavas to the Kauravas to negotiate a settlement
in order to avoid war. However, Duryodana did not yield and a war became
inevitable to establish dharma. Thus, a war between the Kauravas and the
Pandavas started at Kurukshetra.
Lord Krishna agreed to be Arjunas charioteer during the war. As the war
was about to begin, Arjuna asked Lord Krishna to place his chariot at a
vantage point. Krishna placed it in front of their army, facing Bhisma and
Drona. Seeing the people he had to fight with, Arjuna became afflicted
with great sorrow: he was unable to fight against his own kith and
kin and his teachers. So, he declared that he did not desire such a
victory nor could he enjoy ruling a kingdom won after killing ones own kith
and kin. He sat down on his chariot, overcome with grief.

CHAPTER II: THE TOPIC OF KNOWLEDGE: Lord Krishna asked Arjuna


for the reason behind his sudden shying away and indifference to war.
Arjuna replied that he did not want to fight with Bhisma and Drona who
were worthy of his worship. He felt that it was better to live a life of a
bhikshu (one living on alms) instead. Getting a full grasp of his own
helplessness, Arjuna saluted Lord Krishna and surrendered to him.
He asked the Lord to teach him what sreyas (ultimate goal of life)
was. The Lord agreed and thus the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita began
from Verse 11.

Lord Krishna told Arjuna that his grief had no reason. Atm a is not
subject to birth or death; atma is nitya. Whenever one thinks that he is
a subject, guilt is inevitable; whenever one thinks that he is an object, hurt
is inevitable. Atma is neither the subject nor the object. Atm a is being
in the form of consciousness and is free from any doer-ship.

One is endowed with choice only over action. Proficiency in action is


choosing action in accordance with dharma. One can choose to do an
action, not to do or to do it differently. Isvara as karm a-phala-daata
gives the results taking into various accounts, mainly his previous
and present karm a . Results can be equal to, or more, or less, or
opposite of what one expects. A mature person accepts the results as
prasada since it comes from Isvara alone. This attitude is called samatvam,
born out of understanding. Performing ones action with an attitude
of offering to I svara and accepting the result as I svara prasada is
karm a-yoga .
CHAPTER III: THE TOPIC OF KARMA: Arjunas heart was not set on
doing his karma .i.e.. fighting the war. He was interested in taking to
Sannyasa and thereby seek exclusively sreyas, or knowledge for moksha.
He asked Lord Krishna why he was being pushed to perform karma when
gaining knowledge was praised as the only thing that was capable of giving
moksha. It was seemingly conflicting.
Lord Krishna replied that a sannyasi exclusively pursues knowledge.
A Karm a yogi , being a sam sari , pursues knowledge while doing his
karm a, as prescribed by the sastra . The Lord explained that sannyasa
is of two types: Vividisa sannyasa and Sarva-karma sannyasa. In vividisa
sannyasa, the lifestyle of Sannyasa (renunciation) is chosen and one
exclusively pursues atma jnana. Sarva-karm a sannyasa is the end that
both a karma yogi and a sannyasi achieves. It is achieved by knowing that
atma is free from karma, that atma does not perform any karma. It is
renunciation of all karm a by understanding.

A karm a yogi understands that living life conforming to dharma is living a


life in tune with Isvara. His likes and dislikes are neutralized and do not rob
the mind of the stability and focus needed to pursue atma jnana. His mind
becomes contemplative and qualified to receive atm a jnana .

CHAPTER IV: TOPIC OF RENUNCIATION OF ACTION THROUGH


KNOWLEDGE: Lord Krishna said that he had taught atma jnana to
Vivasvan, the head of the Solar dynasty. Arjuna raised a question here: he
asked, when Lord Krishnas birth is a recent event, how can it be that he
taught Vivasvan? Lord Krishna replied that both Arjuna and the Lord had
had many earlier births. While the Lord knew them all, Arjuna did not know
them. He was not born of karma-phala. Whenever dharma weakens and
adharma gains force, Isvara appears to re-establish dharma.
According to ones own disposition (sattivic, rajasic and tamasic),
one can be classified as belonging to one of the four varnas.
Although he may be engaged in an occupation different from his
disposition, if he follows dharma, does his duty and has the attitude of
prasada buddhi, he is known as a sattvic person. The real growth of a
person is when he consumes less and contributes more.

One who understands that he is sat-chit-ananda atm a has no


doership. When doership is not there and action is performed at the body
level, no action is actually done as atma does not do any action. This is
how one can see actionlessness in action. He is no more a samsari and he
will accumulate neither papa nor punya by doing any karma.

CHAPTER V: TOPIC OF RENUNCIATION: A karma yogi, by his


attitude, neutralizes his likes and dislikes. By prayer he neutralizes durita
and earns grace in order to become contemplative. He understands I am
Brahman. Both vividisha sannyasa and karma yoga are the means to
reach the end of sarva-karma sannyasa.
Bhagavan then taught how one can prepare for meditation. One is
objective while seeing the sky, mountains and green valley. In a similar
manner, one should do practice to become objective in regard to
people whom he loves. Once the inhibitions of expectations go, love
becomes purified.

CHAPTER VI: THE TOPIC OF MEDITATION: The first type of


Meditation is thinking about Isvara with a form. Puja can be done
mentally by visualization of an altar. Otherwise a mantra, whose meaning
is Isvara with a form, can be chanted mentally.

The second type of meditation is called nididhyasanam . It is


contemplation on atm a after the study of Vedanta. Sravanam is
listening to and studying the sastra the pramana for atma jananam.
Mananam involves removing the doubts coming from outside the pramana.
Nididhyasanam is performed to neutralise unconscious habitual
wrong thinking to remove any viparita bhavana that I am not
atm a .
One who is able to lift himself by his own efforts is a friend to himself.
When he understands that wherever the mind goes, there is Isvara, his
contemplation becomes pleasant. When he sits for japa, he gives an auto
suggestion: Whenever my mind moves away, I shall bring it back. By
repeated practice and objectivity, he learns to keep the mind focused. His
mind will become calm like a lamp protected from the wind.

Arjuna asked what will happen after death to the one who has sraddha in
the sastra but whose effort is inadequate and therefore has not
gained m oksha in the present janm a . Lord Krishna replied that in the
next janma, he will be born in a home where there is wealth,
values and Vedic tradition and continue the pursuit. Or, he will be
born in a home of a karma yogi who has Sastra jnana. In other words, the
progress made in this life is not wasted; in the next life, he starts his
spiritual evolution from where he left off.
CHAPTER VII: TOPIC OF INDIRECT & IMMEDIATE KNOWLEDGE:
When we analyse what is creation, we understand that it is only word and
meaning or name and form. This jagat is a creation put together
intelligently to serve a purpose. We have three words to describe reality;
satyam (exists in three periods of time), anrtam (false) and tuccham (non-
existent). There is one more reality anirvachaniyam, or m ithyaa ,
which is not available for categorical presentation and
inexplicable. This jagat is m ithyaa . M ithyaa is one which has no
independent being but depends on others for its being.

Maya means magic. Previously created objects in the previous creation


came to an unmanifest condition. From the unmanifest, this jagat becomes
manifest. And the one who wields this magic is Isvara (the Maayaavi). In
the creation, the Creator is in the form of created objects with a name,
form and function. All that is here is Isvara.

Bhagavan talks about four types of bhaktas (devotees) in all. Aartah is the
one who prays only when he is in distress. Artharthi is the one who prays
for the fulfillment of his desires relating to security and pleasure. Jijnasu is
the one who seeks the knowledge of Isvara. A Jnani is the one who
recognizes that he is one with Isvara.

All the four types of devotees are devoted for various reasons: but they all
pray to Isvara and earn His grace. The aartah grows to become an
artharthi. An artharthi grows to become a Jijnasu. And a jijnasu, in turn,
grows to become a Jnani. A Jnani is the most desired as he
recognizes his oneness with I svara .

After many births one may understand that VAASUDEVAH SARVAMITI


that is, All that is here is Isvara that Isvara is all knowledge and
is the efficient cause of this universe. The entire universe exists in Isvara,
and He is also the material cause of this universe. But such a wise person
is very rare.
CHAPTER VIII: TOPIC OF IMPERISHABLE BRAHMAN

The Eighth Chapter begins with Arjunas question regarding the meaning of
some terms: Lord Krishna explained the meaning of those terms.
Brahman is limitless and not subject to change. Adhyaatma is
awareness in the physical body. Karma refers to the actions that result in
repetitive births of living beings. Adhibhuuta is the universe subject to
change. Adhidaiva is Hiranyagarbha. Adhiyajna is the Lord who resides
in the body.

When one remembers Isvara at the time of death, he may go to


svarga or he may be born in a family where there is favourable
atmosphere for spiritual growth and moksha. When one chants OM at
the time of death, understanding its meaning as Brahman, he will not have
rebirth. The one who understands the meaning of Brahman will not
have rebirth.

This chapter is chanted as a prayer for the departed jivas.

CHAPTER IX: TOPIC OF THE KING OF KNOWLEDGE, THE KING OF


SECRETS

Brahma vidya destroys ignorance about the Self and creates the awareness
of the fact that everything is Brahman. Brahma vidya or raja vidya (king
among knowledge) reveals that I am Brahman, which is sat chit ananda.
Brahma vidya will give moksha to the one who is prepared and ready.
When a secret is told, it is no more a secret. But Brahma vidya will
remain a secret even after it is told many times, unless the person
hearing it is ready.

When one performs the rituals mentioned in the karma khanda of the
Veda, he goes to svarga (a world of enjoyments, music and dance). After
the exhaustion of his punya in svarga, he is born again in this
world. Getting desirable things that have not been obtained already is
yoga. Retaining those desirable things that have been obtained is ksema.
Isvara promises that he will take care of yoga and ksema of those
who always dwell upon him and understand him. The entire jagat is
pervaded by him and sustained by him.

Isvara is the maker and material cause of the jagat. The entire jagat
has its being in Isvara. Jagat is Brahman but Brahman is not jagat. This is
a paradox in Vedanta that can be resolved by understanding.

Isvara wields the power of maya. Maya is the material cause of this
jagat. The manifest jagat is because of maya. Before creation, Isvara
alone was there with all knowledge and the jagat was unmanifest. After
creation too, Isvara alone is there with all knowledge and the jagat is
manifest.

When one understands Isvara properly, he is considered a Saadhu. His


earlier improper conduct if any is not going to continue. He understands all
emotions as Isvaras manifestation of psychological order. He will offer his
prayers and rituals to Isvara. He understands Isvarathis is
figuratively told that he reaches Isvara.

CHAPTER X- TOPIC OF THE GLORIES OF THE LORD

The entire universe is a manifestation of Isvara. All the glories


that we find in this universe, relating to any person or thing,
belong to Isvara. Arjuna prays to Lord Krishna to talk in detail about his
glories. The Lord starts by telling that he is meaning of the word I, the
consciousness. He then gives a brief list of his important glories, adding
that his glories cannot be fully listed, as they are infinite. He concludes by
saying that he is the very existence in all beings.

All attributes that are glorious, rich or powerful are expressions of the
Lords glory. All that is here is Isvara. An object or person becomes
sacred when one recognizes the object as a manifestation of
Isvara.
CHAPTER XI TOPIC OF THE VISION OF A COSMIC PERSON

Arjuna prayed to the Lord to show his cosmic form. The Lord blessed
Arjuna with a divine vision and Arjuna could see the brilliant form of the
Lord adorned with divine ornaments. He saw all beings in the cosmic
body of the Lord. He saw celestial beings and celestial objects. The
Lords body appeared with thousands of hands and legs without having any
beginning, middle or end.

He saw many persons entering the mouth of the Lord and getting
destroyed. Arjuna was terrified by seeing the destructive power of
the Lord. Taittriya Upanisad says if one fails to see oneness, he will be
fearful. Brhadaranyaka Upanisad says the one who sees duality will
experience fear. As Arjuna did not include himself in the cosmic
form, he was terrified.

Arjuna repeatedly saluted the Lord. He said that the whole world was
pervaded by the Lord. He is the creator of the world. He asked for pardon
for taking the liberty of calling the Lord as O! Krishna, O! Yadava, O! Friend
as he was ignorant of his glories. He requested the Lord to withdraw the
cosmic form as he could not endure it.

All that is here is Isvara. The one having this vision will see the
entire universe as the cosmic form of the Lord.

CHAPTER XII- TOPIC OF DEVOTION

Arjuna asked Lord Krishna, which devotee was superior: the devotee
worshipping the Lord with a form or the one worshipping the Lord without
a form. The Lord replied that the devotee worshipping the Lord
with a form was great, but a Jnani was the most exalted devotee.

The Lord described various types of devotees. One may meditate on


the universe as the form of Isvara. One may do his svadharma as an
offering to the Lord with the attitude of karma yoga and accept the results
as prasada from the Lord.
The Lord lists the characteristics of a Jnani. He is compassionate, free
from doer-ship, has no hatred for any one and has equanimity. He neither
disturbs others nor is he disturbed by others. He is free from elation,
intolerance, fear and anxiety.

CHAPTER XIII- TOPIC OF THE NATURE OF KNOWER AND THE


KNOWN

Ksetram means the field where crop is raised. Here it refers to ones body
through which karma is done, and it also refers to the whole world.
Ksetrajna is the one who objectifies Ksetram i.e. the whole world,
including ones body.

Jnaanam : The Lord talks of 20 important values and says that those who
possesses these alone will gain atma jnanam. Hence, the values
themselves are termed here as Jnaanam. These 20 values are humility,
simplicity, harmlessness, accommodation, straightforwardness, reverence
for the Teacher, cleanliness, steadfastness, self-discipline, dispassion for
sense objects, absence of pride, seeing clearly the defects in birth, death,
old age and disease, absence of ownership, absence of excessive affection
to relatives, equanimity during desirable and undesirable situations,
unswerving devotion to the Lord, seclusion, absence of longing for peoples
company and always dwelling on self-knowledge.

Jneyam is Brahman who is to be known. Brahman is the creator, sustainer


and the one in whom the creation resolves. Brahman is the consciousness
in and of all beings.

Purusa is consciousness, independent and changeless. Prakrti is


dependent on Purusa for its existence and is inert and changing.

Ksetrajna, Jneyam and Purusa are synonyms. Ksetram and Prakrti are
synonyms.
One needs to purify his mind by living a life of karma yoga. Later, he
should gain atma jnana through jnana yoga, after gaining the required
preparedness.

CHAPTER XIV- TOPIC OF THE DIVISION OF THREE GUNAS

Every individual is a combination of three gunas, sattva, rajas and


tamas. Sattva is thinking, knowing, happiness and cheerful mind. Rajas is
ambition and desire. Tamas is simple desire and slothfulness. One can
become sattva predominant by satsanga: even when one falls short,
one can fake it temporarily with the objective of becoming genuinely
saatvika and eventually make it. One gets the attitude of karma yoga and
accepts the results as Isvara prasada. There is a sameness of mind when
there are desirable and undesirable results. This makes the person ready
for the study of Vedanta. After gaining the knowledge, he will be free. He
will not be affected by praise or censure.

CHAPTER XV- TOPIC OF THE WHOLE PERSON

This chapter is chanted at the Gurukulam daily before lunch and


dinner. This chapter is chanted before bhiksha in the Ashrams at
Rishikesh.

Like Aswatha tree, samsaara is vast and multi-branched. As the leaves


keep the tree alive, karmas keep the tree of samsaara going. Just as how
the tree can be felled, samsara too can be destroyed with the weapon of
knowledge. Those who do not have binding desires and are committed to
spiritual pursuit reach the ultimate abode.

Isvara is the light that lights up the sun, moon and the fire. He enlivens
and nourishes the jagat. As the digestive fire, he digests the food. He
gives memory, knowledge and forgetfulness. He is the author and the
knower of Vedas.

When one understands the oneness between the jiva and Isvara, who is
manifest as the universe, the connection with all that is here is
automatically established. He is the epistemological order, physiological
order, and the physical order. I am all is a thing to be understood.
This is the vision.

There are two purushas, one that is destroyed in the form of beings and
the other that is not destructible in the form of maya. There is another
uttama purusha in the form of Isvara, which pervades and sustains the
three worlds. The one who knows Purushottama in this manner becomes
the knower of all and gains fulfilment.

CHAPTER XVI - TOPIC OF DESCRIPTION OF BECOMING AND


UNBECOMING DISPOSITIONS:

This chapter deals with daivee sampat and aasuree sampat.

A person possessing daivee sampat is endowed with the following wealth:


fearlessness, purity of mind, steadiness, capacity to reach out, mastery
over sense organs (self-restraint), devotion to Isvara (performing various
rituals), study of ones own Veda on a regular basis, austerity, alignment of
thought, word and deeds, straightforwardness, non-violence, truthfulness,
resolution of anger, renunciation, calmness, absence of tendency to
criticize others, compassion, absence of longing, gentleness, modesty,
brilliance, capacity to forget and forgive, endurance, no thought of hurting
others and not having ego.

A person having aasuree sampat will have the following dispositions:


adharma, pride, arrogance, anger, harshness, untruthfulness, desire,
passion, cruelty, pretention, delusion, etc. They suffer pain here and later
have to suffer pain in naraka also.

A spiritual seeker needs to live a mindful, alert life by consciously


giving up these aasuree sampat and deliberately cultivating
daivee sampat till this wealth manifests spontaneously. Only a
person endowed with daivee sampat can gain atma jnana.
A person following the injunctions of Sastra will have happiness here and
hereafter. Sastra is the means of knowledge to know what is to be done
and what is not to be done

CHAPTER XVII TOPIC OF THE DESCRIPTION OF THE THREE


TYPES OF SRADDHA:

This chapter starts with a question of Arjuna to know the fate of the
person who does puja with sraddha but not following Sastra. The Lord
answered this question by explaining what is sraddha. He told that sraddha
is three fold: saattvika, raajasika and taamasika.

One should give up taamasika activities, grow out of raajasika


activities and finally go for saattvika activities.

Three fold worship: Sattvika people worship Devatas. Raajasika people


worship Yaksas. Taamasika people worship ghosts.

Three fold food: Food that increases longevity, mental clarity, strength,
health and happiness are liked by saattvika people. Food that is bitter,
sour, salty, hot, pungent and dry and that give pain, sorrow and ill-health
are liked by raajasika people. Food that is old, inadequately cooked, kept
overnight or impure are liked by taamasika people.

Three fold ritual: Ritual performed as per the Sastra for purifying the
mind is known as saattvika ritual. Ritual performed for worldly results or for
gaining recognition is raajasika ritual. Ritual performed contrary to Sastra
without distribution of food, not giving dakshinaa to priest, and without
sraddha is taamasika ritual.

Three fold tapas: Worshiping of Devas and Gurus, purity,


straightforwardness, self-discipline, and ahimsa is called tapas (discipline)
of physical body. Speech that does not create anxieties, which is true,
pleasing and beneficial is called tapas (discipline) of speech. Mental
cheerfulness, gentleness, silence, mastery over the mind and purity of
thought is called tapas (discipline) of the mind.
Three fold daanam: Daanam when done as duty, given without
expecting to get anything in return, in proper place, at proper time, and to
a worthy recipient is considered saatvika danam. Daanam that is given
expecting something in return or for punya is raajasika. Daanam given
improperly at the wrong place and time, and to unworthy recipients and
with contempt is taamasika danam

The words OM, TAT, SAT separately and together means Brahman. It is
auspicious to begin anything by uttering these three words.

CHAPTER XVIII TOPIC OF FREEDOM AND RENUNCIATION:

Yagna, daana and tapas should not be given up by anybody. They


are to be done for purification of the mind.

Three fold tyaga: Renunciation due to some fascination or romanticism


about sannyasa is taamasika. Renunciation done due to fear of bodily
strain and hence avoidance of doing what is to be done is known as
raajasika. Renunciation of attachment towards result of karma is sattvika.

A karma yogi maintains equanimity irrespective of whether the result is


desirable, undesirable or a mixture of these two. Atma is neither the doer
nor the enjoyer, but due to identification with the body and mind, one does
a mistake and identifies himself to be a doer and enjoyer. The
identification with body will go only by gaining atma jnana.

Three fold knowledge: The knowledge by which one sees changeless,


undivided atma is sattvika. The knowledge by which one sees the apparent
difference among varied beings as real is raajasika. The knowledge by
which one sees the body alone as atma is taamasika.

Three fold action: The action done with the attitude of karma yoga is
sattvika. The action done for personal gain is raajasika. The action born out
of delusion is taamasika.

Three fold karta: Sattvic doer is a karma yogi with enthusiasm,


cheerfulness and fortitude. Rajasic doer is under the spell of likes and
dislikes and is subject to elation and depression. Tamasic doer is immature,
lazy and procrastinates.

Three fold buddhi: Sattvic intellect is the one that knows what to do and
what not to do and knows the cause of bondage and the path to freedom.
Rajasic intellect wrongly understands what is to be done and not to be
done under the spell of likes and dislikes. Tamasic intellect mistakes
adharma as dharma.

Three fold resolve: Sattvic resolve is to maintain and engage all sense
organs in the spiritual path. Rajasic resolve is to pursue worldly pursuits
mainly dharma, artha and kama. Tamasic resolve is not thinking properly,
not giving up excess sleep, fear, sorrow, sadness and intoxication.

Three fold happiness: Sattvic happiness is that which looks like poison in
the beginning but is like nectar in the end. Rajasic happiness is that which
is like nectar in the beginning and like poison in the end. Tamasic
happiness is that which is born out of sleep, laziness and indifference.

Karma Yoga Attitude: The duties of the four varnas are prescribed by
the Sastra, based on ones own disposition. One should stay with ones
own karma and contribute to the society with the attitude of
performing his karma as an offering (puja) to Isvara. This attitude
of karma yoga will help one to gain the mental purity necessary to pursue
atma jnana.

Dharma Vyadha: In Mahabaratha, the story of Dharma Vyadha is


presented as a duty bound person. He is a butcher by profession, but due
to his commitment to svadharma and pitru seva, gains fullness. He
teaches a Brahmana what dharma is.

Gita teaching is summarized as follows: One does his svadharma with


karma yoga attitude. He neutralizes his likes and dislikes. He cultivates
compassion. He wins over anger. He frees himself from a sense of
possession. He frees himself from ego. He accepts the results as prasada
from Isvara with equanimity.
He learns the Sastra from a Guru. He knows himself to be a non-doer of
action even while performing action. He contemplates on the teaching that
he, himself is the meaning of the word satisfaction, not bound by time and
is the very meaning of purnatvam (fullness). He always stays with the
knowledge that he is Brahman.

His mind is abiding in the Lord. The Lord promises that such a devotee will
reach Him. Giving up the karmas, when one takes refuge in the
Lord, he will be released from all karmas and he will not grieve.
He will gain moksha.

Arjuna told that his moha (delusion) has gone and he is no more deluded
as he has regained his, his clarity in understanding. He was ready to act as
per Lords instructions. The Lord replied that Arjuna may do whatever he
wanted.

The Lord said that the one who teaches Bhagavad Gita to others is
his dearest devotee. The one who studies and recites Gita actually
worships the Lord in the form of jnana yagna. Even a person
listening to the Gita will gain punya and go to auspicious worlds.

Wherever there is Lord Krsna and Arjuna bearing the bow, there is victory,
wealth and justice.